POTS is a disorder that can easily be overlooked or misdiagnosed. Some patients have had to wait years before their condition was properly labeled. POTS is sometimes misdiagnosed because of the wide array of symptoms that accompany this syndrome. The symptoms of postural orthostatic tachycardia often mimic other illnesses. Entities such as thyroid disease, pheochromocytoma, hypoadrenalism, cardiac disease, autonomic neuropathies, medication side effects and anxiety disorders need to be ruled out before a patient is labeled with POTS (Low, 2000).
POTS is an easy disorder to overlook because physicians routinely take heart and blood pressure readings while the patient is sitting down. The POTS patient may have relatively normal vital signs while sitting down. Also, POTS symptoms can vary from day to day. Patients sometimes report good phases in which their symptoms are milder, followed by bad phases in which symptoms become more severe. This fluctuation in symptoms can also lead to difficulties in detecting POTS. Physicians that have experience in detecting and treating dysautonomia can be located on our Find a Physician database of dysautonomia specialists.
There are a variety of tests that the POTS patient may undergo. Orthostatic symptoms are usually the most debilitating aspect of autonomic dysfunction readily amenable to therapy, and for this reason the blood pressure and heart rate response to upright posture should be the starting point of any autonomic laboratory evaluation (Robertson, 1996, p. 111).
To learn about the tests used to diagnose POTS and other forms of dysautonomia, please visit our Autonomic Testing page.